Friday, July 3, 2009

I Am I Plus My Circumstances

I give this guy five bucks every time I see him. When I was coming back from the Loop earlier, I saw this guy again. He pretty much just hangs around the Orange Line station now, as it has warmed up I see him sitting on benches quite often. Years ago, and I am talking YEARS, he would ride the train, go from car to car. The Orange Line opened in 1993, I'd see him at the Pulaski stop, where I used to live. Occasionally he would be downtown, I guess because the train took him there, in the days he'd walk from car to car. His condition has never changed, and even the cops have no idea. They are sympathetic to him, and offer to keep his bag safe so that when I give him his money, he goes right to this plastic bag of odds and ends. The middle photo I took the Saturday I photographed that vinegar factory, it was a rare time to see him dressed in slacks and a dress shirt. He's not talking on the phone in that photo, he grunts, he cannot use his hands, and I'm certain he has some form of cerebral palsy. When I hand him a five, he has to turn sideways and put his left hand out like a wing and I have to fold his fingers around the dough. If you've ever heard me describe why I called my first chapbook PAIN GRIN, well, it fits this guy as well. Cerebral palsy is not always about being spastic, a lot of times its taking on the persona of a stroke victim. And this guy is all stop-action when he walks, turns, tries to converse. He recognizes me, and this was long before I offered him money. I was bordering on insanity before I started taking the Lamictal, some cold winter days I wasn't even aware if I was alive or dead just thinking I was alive. I wish I could give "this guy" a name. At least I know one thing, since being on the meds, I am acutely aware that he and I are two separate people. At times, all through the 90s and into the double-aughts, I was terrified that I was creating the persona of that which I was meant to be.